More than six percent of children up to the age of fifteen suffer from fears, hyperactivity or other problems that seriously impair their ability to function normally. The Youth Health Care service is tasked with identifying psychosocial problems in children at an early stage. In this context, questionnaires are an important tool. TNO has developed a method, known as Psycat, for online use. It is designed to deliver optimum results, while asking as few questions as possible. Better for kids and parents.
Psycat employs a technique known as computerised adaptive testing (or CAT), which is used to estimate the potential severity of problems, based on parents’ responses to online questions about their child. The algorithms developed by TNO perform calculations on that input, to select the most logical follow-up question. The end product is a list containing a limited number of relevant questions. Any unnecessary questions are omitted. This saves time and, more importantly, it provides more accurate results about the child’s actual problems. The results are presented to healthcare professionals in the form of an easy-to-read graphic visualisation.
TNO initially developed Psycat purely for research purposes. It is now a much sought-after tool for effectively assessing psychosocial problems in children at an early stage. This, in turn, makes it possible to provide them with support in good time. The tool has proven itself in practice, in the Youth Health Care service. Indeed, that was its initial purpose, given that the Youth Health Care service is tasked with promoting the health and the physical, psychosocial and emotional development of children and young people. To this end, the service schedules regular, routine appointments with almost all children up to the age of eighteen. Psycat can also be used by mental health care providers, youth care services and general practitioners to benefit their clients and patients. One version is designed for the parents of children aged from two to four, while another is intended for the seven to twelve age group.
Psycat’s scientific development is now almost complete. It has demonstrated its value in practice, in terms of flagging up problems at an early stage. Accordingly, the time has now come to pass the baton to a commercial actor. TNO can still remain involved, however, as a co-shareholder and knowledge partner. A key consideration here is that Psycat must be able to engage smoothly with the various organisational aspects of healthcare practice, such as electronic medical records.
TNO would be happy to engage with any commercial actors that might be interested in making Psycat available to the health service.